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Peter specialises in research focusing on materials and making, luxury goods and artworks.

Peter has a background in the creative industries as a member of product design and restoration project teams and as a lecturer and head of programme. He has also worked as a heritage and cultural tourism specialist and as an industrial analytical chemist. Peter holds a PhD in Anthropology and is a specialist in ethnographic and collection research methods. He joined the RCA in 2012 as School Research Leader for the School of Material, moving to the School of Arts & Humanities in 2017 and becoming Reader in Material Culture in 2018.

Research projects

Gallery

  • Yarn Shop in Ban Rai; Thai Textiles Project. Photo: Dr Peter Oakley, 2019.

    Yarn Shop in Ban Rai; Thai Textiles Project. Photo: Dr Peter Oakley, 2019.

  • Master Weaver Jampee Tamasiri at her loom; Thai Textiles Project.

    Master Weaver Jampee Tamasiri at her loom; Thai Textiles Project. Photo: Dr Peter Oakley, 2019.

  • Kazakh craftworkers examining traditional embroideries; Crafting Futures Project.

    Kazakh craftworkers examining traditional embroideries; Crafting Futures Project. Photo Dr Peter Oakley, 2019.

  • West Bund Art and Design Fair 2019; Art Fair Innovations Project.

    West Bund Art and Design Fair 2019; Art Fair Innovations Project. Photo: Dr Peter Oakley, 2019.

  • Repurposed ceramic factory, Jingdezhen; Industrial Heritage Shanghai project. Photo: Dr Peter Oakley, 2019.

    Repurposed ceramic factory, Jingdezhen; Industrial Heritage Shanghai project. Photo: Dr Peter Oakley, 2019.

  • Miners’ Entrance to The Dry, Geevor Tin Mine, Cornwall; Contrived Dereliction Project, 2017.

    Miners’ Entrance to The Dry, Geevor Tin Mine, Cornwall; Contrived Dereliction Project, 2017.

  • Kennecott Processing Mill, Alaska; Contrived Dereliction Project

    Kennecott Processing Mill, Alaska; Contrived Dereliction Project, 2008.

  • SAFA Staff Executive Education programme

    SAFA Staff Executive Education programme. Photo Dr Peter Oakley 2019.

More information

Peter's key research topics are:

  • Contemporary uses of craft techniques
  • The social roles and relevance of luxury goods
  • Processes of material analysis and their technical and social impact
  • Ethical and sustainable material sourcing initiatives
  • The materiality of artists' materials
  • The adoption and exploitation of innovative manufacturing technologies
  • The preservation and presentation or repurposing of industrial heritage

For over a decade, Peter has undertaken research on the jewellery and watch industries and their supply chains, including the creation, development and impact of ethical gold sourcing certification schemes. For the past five years, Peter has been identifying and addressing the issues faced by Thai rural craft weavers through PhD supervisions and leading the Thai Textiles project. Over the same period, he has also undertaken fieldwork focusing on Shanghai's contemporary art sector and ethnographic research on the adoption of digital technologies in the UK's ceramics industry for AHRC-funded projects, as well as undertaking field visits to Kazakhstan to meet local craft workers for the British Council's Crafting Futures programme.

Thai Textiles (2019–2021)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA GCRF Development Scheme

An international research project identifying how locally sourced, sustainable raw materials can be more effectively and profitably utilised in Thai rural craft weaving.

Industrial Heritage in Shanghai (2019)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA GCRF Development Scheme

The project explored the re-purposing of industrial buildings to house cultural institutions in Shanghai & Jingdezhen & how this activity compares to similar Western practices.

Art Fair Innovations (2019)

Role: Co-Investigator

Funder: Arts & Humanities Research Council

This project unpacked issues relating to the delivery of the West Bund Art & Design Fair, one of Shanghai's main arts events.

Ethical Gold in Scotland (2018–2020)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA Special Projects Fund

An examination of the impact of ethical gold campaigns & certification initiatives in Scotland through fieldwork with practitioners, lecturers & institutions.

TECHNE Scholarship (2018–2021)

Role: Primary Supervisor & bid writing support

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council through TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership

The TECHNE scholarship was awarded to support Eni Bankole-Race's PhD project - Resplendence: Aso-oke and the Importance of Strategic Sartoriality in Yoruban Culture.

Fair Luxury at the RCA (2018)

Role: Event Convener and Project Manager

Funder: RCA GCRF Development Scheme

Fair Luxury at the RCA was an industry-academia crossover conference, focusing on ethical sourcing in the jewellery industry. Speakers included ethical mining certifiers, jewellery practitioners, gem traders, and academics researching artisanal and small-scale mining.

4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture (2017–2021)

Role: RCA Project Manager

Funder: European Commission through EACEA Creative Europe.

A transnational project exploring how training & education in art & culture can reflect on, & respond to, conflict through audience participation & co-production.

Improved Laser Printing Equipment for Ceramics (2017–2018)

Role: Co-Investigator

Funder: Arts & Humanities Research Council

Prototyping design improvements for current ceramic laser printing machines & identifying technical specifications for the next generation of printing equipment.

Erasmus+ Staff Placement (2017)

Role: Host Sponsor and Placement Organiser.

Funder: EACEA Erasmus grants for staff or teaching mobility

Dr Antonella Camarda, lecturer at the University of Sassari and Director of the Nivola Museum, undertook a two week placement as a tutor at the RCA.

Pressed Aluminium Innovations Pilot Project (2016–2017)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA Research Development Fund

Funding to scope the potential of crossovers between studio silversmithing & industrial press-forming processes.

ArcInTex European Training Network (2015–2018)

Role: RCA Participant Contact

Funder: European Commission through H2020-MSCA-ITN.

The ArcInTex consortium supported 15 PhD students researching intersections between textiles, interactive design & architecture.

Extending the Potential of the Digitally Printed Ceramic Surface (2015–2017)

Role: Co-Investigator

Funder: Arts & Humanities Research Council

An exploration of the commercial potential of digital printing for decorating high-value ceramics, including identifying social & technical barriers to adoption.

Materialising Time (2014)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA Research Development Fund

Field research in Geneva to support an analysis of the development of the wristwatch as a luxury good.

Contrived Dereliction (2013)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA Research Development Fund

Utilising fieldwork at mining heritage sites in North America and Europe, the project developed the concept of ‘contrived dereliction’ as a presentation strategy.

Thai Textile Project

4Cs: From Conflict to conviviality through Creativity and Culture

Art Fair Innovations

Extending the Potential for the Digitally Printed Ceramic Surface

Improved Laser Printing for Ceramics

Ethical Gold (2008-ongoing)

This research topic focuses on the creation and development of the concept of ‘ethical gold’ and its impact on the jewellery trade and associated supply chains through certification regimes managed by NGOs, industry bodies and other associations and organisations. The project has involved a decade of ethnographic fieldwork in the UK’s jewellery sector. This included attending ‘ethical gold’ promotional events, private industry meetings and jewellery trade shows and undertaking participant-observation amongst jewellery manufacturers and retailers, gold refiners and precious metal scrap merchants.

https://www.rca.ac.uk/news-and-events/events/fair-luxury-rca/

Crafting Futures – Wider Europe (Central Asia) Scoping (2019-2020)

A team of researchers from the RCA and Leicester University identified issues faced by craft workers across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in order to support the development of digital tools to assist them in promoting their finished products.

Academic Journal Articles

Oakley, P. (2018) ‘After Mining: contrived dereliction, dualistic time and the moment of rupture in the presentation of mining heritage’, Extractive Industries and Society Vol.5 No.2.

Oakley, P. (2017) ‘Is Gold Jewelry Money?’ Social Analysis Vol.61 No.4.

Oakley, P. (2015) ‘Ticking Boxes: (re)constructing the wristwatch as a luxury object’, Luxury: History, Culture, Consumption, Vol.1, No.2.

Books

Crimmin, M. & Oakley, P. (2020) This Is No Longer That Place: a handbook on the events. London: Royal College of Art.

Book Chapters

Oakley, P. (2020) ‘Is Gold Jewelry Money?’ in: Sandy Ross and Mario Scmidt (eds), Money Counts: Revisiting Economic Calculation: New York & Oxford: Berghahn.

Oakley, P. (2015) ‘Introducing Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold: An attempt to reconfigure the social identity of a substance’, in: Adam Drazin and Susanne Kuechler (eds), The Social Life of Materials, London: Bloomsbury.

Oakley, P. (2015) ‘A Permanent State of Decay: Contrived dereliction at heritage mining sites’, in: Hilary Orange (ed.), Reanimating Industrial Spaces. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Oakley, P. (2014) 'Contrived Dereliction: Employing an aesthetic of decay at mining heritage sites', in: Mike Robinson et al (eds.) Cultural Heritage and Tourism Vol.2: Engagement and Experience. Taipei: Farterng Culture CO.

Oakley, P. & Küchler,S. (2013) ‘New Materials and their Impact on the Material World’, in: Penny Harvey, Eleanor Casella, Gillian Evans, Hannah Knox, Christine McLean, Elizabeth B. Silva, Nicholas Thoburn, Kath Woodward (eds), Objects and Materials: A Routledge Companion, London: Routledge.

Oakley, P. (2013) ‘Containing Precious Metals: the material consequences of hallmarking in modern and medieval England’, in: Hans Peter Hahn and Hadas Weis (eds), Mobility, Meaning and Transformations of Things: Shifting contexts of material culture through time and space, Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Oakley, P. (2008) ‘Praxeological Subjectification: the hidden power of practical activities’, in: Kate Hatton (ed.), Design Pedagogy Research, Huddersfield: Jeremy Mills.

Published Conference Papers

Oakley, P. (2019) ‘Ethical Gold: Why Manufacturing Methods Matter’. The Goldsmiths’ Company Jewellery Materials Congress, https://www.assayofficelondon.co.uk/events/the-goldsmiths-company-jewellery-materials-congress

Oakley, P. (2018) ‘Creating a Brighter Future? Responses to the commercialisation of a new ceramic print technology’. Making Futures, Vol.5.

Oakley, P. (2016) ‘Digital Crafting: Defining the Field in 2015’, Making Futures, Vol.4.

Oakley, P. (2015) 'Digital Crafting: Re-evaluating Promises and Pitfalls' (English text with full Korean translation). In: Making Futures Korea: Craft, meeting the new through changes in perception. Cheongju: Cheongju International Craft Biennale Committee.

Oakley, P. (2014) ‘Crafting with Digital Technologies: issues in practice’, Making Futures, Vol.3

Working Reports

Dare, E., Simmons, T., Ramanathan, R. and Oakley, P. (2019) Crafting Futures: Scoping visit reports and proposals for pilot projects in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/4337/

Oakley, P. (2019) Material Disciplines in the Shanghai Art World. AFI Report No.2. http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4007

Overseas Academic Presentations

‘The Value(s) of Thai Craft Textiles in the 21st Century’, presented jointly with Dr Wuthigrai Siriphon. Part of the Re-thinking Creative Economy Through Fashion in Asia panel at the AAS-in-Asia 2020 Conference, delivered online from Kobe, 2 Sept 2020.

‘Digital Printing for Ceramics’. Seminar delivered to the Industrial Craft programme at Thammasat University’s Lampang Campus in Northern Thailand, 4 Dec 2019.

‘Combining Materials and Concepts: the case of ceramics in Western art’. Seminar delivered to Shanghai Centre of Public Art faculty, Shanghai University, 22 May 2019.

‘Moving Ideals: the international migration of responsible mining and ethical sourcing principles in the early twenty-first century’. Presentation given as part of the Mining Mobility panel at the 15th EASA Biennial Conference, Stockholm, 14-7 Aug 2018.

‘Preserving Past Mines in the Present: mining heritage management, contrived dereliction and non-linear time’, delivered at the European Association of Social Anthropologists Anthropology of Mining Network workshop, University of Utrecht, 20-21 July 2017.

‘Towards A Brighter Future: The risks and rewards of new ceramic print technology’. Presentation delivered at ISSSM 2017, Sapporo, 17 Jan 2017.

‘Representing Geevor: linear progress vs the singular moment in the presentation of mining heritage’. Presentation given as part of the Mining Temporalities panel, 14th EASA Biennial Conference, Milan, 22 July 2016.

‘Intelligent Making at the RCA’. Seminar delivered to the Arts Faculty, California State University Long Beach (CSULB), Los Angeles, California, 12 April 2016.

'Digital Crafting: Re-evaluating Promises and Pitfalls'. Delivered as part of Making Futures: Korea conference, part of the 2015 Cheongju International Craft Biennale, Cheongju, 10 Oct 2015.

‘Crafting with Digital Technologies’. Keynote presentation for Craft 2.0, a session at Making Futures: Beijing, part of Beijing Design Festival, Dashilar Hutong, Beijing, 28 Sept 2014.

‘Gold Jewellery as Money: the covert social identity of a class of object’. Presentation given at the Value and Equivalence workshop, Goethe Universitaet, Frankfurt, 30 Nov 2013.

'Contrived Dereliction: employing an aesthetic of decay at mining heritage sites'. Delivered at Tourism and the Shifting Values of Cultural Heritage, a conference organised by the University of Birmingham, National Taipei University of Education and National Taiwan University, Taipei, 8 April 2013.

‘Containing Gold: institutional attempts to define and constrict the values of precious metal objects’, Itineraries of the Material conference, Goethe Universitaet, Frankfurt, 7 Oct 2011.

Industry Presentations

Presenter at the Jewellery Materials Congress, convened by the London Assay Office. Held at Goldsmiths’ Hall, London, 9 July 2019.

Presenter at Its In Our Hands - One Year On, Edinburgh, convened by The Incorporation of Goldsmiths. Held at the Drill Hall, Edinburgh, 28 March 2018.

Panel moderator for the Jewellery Industry Panel at FLUX 2017, convened by Fair Luxury and held at the Birmingham Assay Office, 26 April 2017.

Presenter at Ethical Making for the 21st Century, convened by The Incorporation of Goldsmiths. Held at the University of Dundee, 7 Feb 2017.

Plenary Panel Member for Harnessing Extractive Industries for Development in sub-Saharan Africa workshop, convened by Surrey Business School. Held at the University of Surrey, Guildford, 10 June 2016.

Panel Member for ‘Ethical Issues and Initiatives’, at Flux: Fair Luxury. Convened by Fair Luxury. Held at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, London, 19 April 2016.

Panel Moderator for ‘Sustainable Materials for the Common Good’, a breakout session at the 4th Sustainable Luxury Forum. Held in Geneva, 6 Feb 2015.

Panel Moderator for ‘Sustainable Luxury Innovation: exploring a multi-dimensional terrain’, a breakout session at the 3rd Sustainable Luxury Forum. Held in Geneva, 18-19 June 2013.

Public Presentations

‘The Value(s) of Crafting in the 21st Century’. Public presentation given at the Thailand Creative and Design Centre, Bangkok, 28 Sept 2019.

‘Innovation, Appropriation, Acculturation’. Public lecture given as part of the International Awards for Art Criticism 6 launch event, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, 24 May, 2019.

Co-Presenter of ‘The Order of Colour’. A public presentation of selected holdings in the RCA Colour Reference Library and related research projects, co-delivered with Neil Parkinson, RCA Archives and Collections Manager. Part of Chemfest 2019, London, 10 April 2019.

Introductory Speaker and panel moderator for ‘Materials Reborn?’ convened by the Arts Foundation as part of COLLECT 2015. Held at the Saatchi Gallery, London, 10 May 2015.

Advisory Roles

Advisor for Wooden Reed Making of the ethnic Lao Khrang in Thailand (A British Museum Endangered Material Knowledge Programme funded project).

Advisor for The Incorporation of Goldsmiths’ Ethical Making Resource.

Advisor for the British Council report: Empowerment of Women and Girls through Craft, Digital Technology and Entrepreneurship in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, 2017.

Steering Group member for the Craft Council report: Innovation through Craft: Opportunities for Growth, 2015-2016.

Editorial Advisory Board member for Luxury: History, Culture, Consumption.

Advisory Board member for the Geneva-based Sustainable Luxury Forum, 2013-2015.

Specialist Panel member for the FLO Fairtrade Gold certification standard review, 2012.


UKRI Support Activities

Member of the AHRC Peer Review College.

Member of the ResearchFish Steering Board.


Professional Association Memberships

Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institution (RAI)

Member of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)

Member of the Society for the History of Alchemy & Chemistry (SHAC)

Member of the Society of Jewellery Historians (SJH)

Member of the Association of Research Managers & Assistants (ARMA)


Research Group Memberships

European Association of Social Anthropologists’ Anthropology of Mining Network

Association for the discussion of History of Chemistry (AD HOC)

LabUK’s Fashioning Material Britain Research Group

Associate member of the Winchester Luxury Research Group

Research students